Cavaliers vs. Knicks: Mitchell's Return Should Spark Cleveland

Action Network contributor Andrew O'Connor-Watts previews Tuesday's NBA game between the Cavaliers and Knicks, including betting odds and a prediction.

Cavaliers vs. Knicks Odds

Cavaliers Odds -3
Knicks Odds +3
Over/Under 219
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Cleveland Cavaliers take on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden Tuesday in a battle of two Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls.

The Knicks will be without big man Mitchell Robinson, who will be sidelined for at least three weeks with a broken thumb on his shooting hand.  Immanuel Quickley is questionable, while Donovan Mitchell for the Cavaliers is probable.

The teams have split two meetings so far this year, with each team winning at home. Let’s take a look at the odds and I’ll give my picks and analysis for the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. New York Knicks.

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Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers have been without their best offensive player for the past three games, but Mitchell is currently probable and is likely to make a return Tuesday night against the Knicks.

Spots like these with a star player returning after injury are generally spots I look to avoid betting on the team with the returning player. It can be difficult to reintegrate such a focal part of the offense or defense without some growing pains.

In this case, with Mitchell only missing three games, I expect the reintegration to be relatively seamless and I think the Cavaliers could cause some problems for the Knicks, especially in the paint.

Cleveland likes to attack the rim and get to their spots in the short mid-range with Mitchell, Darius Garland and even Evan Mobley. The Cavaliers shoot the 11th-most shots at the rim (22.8%) and their percentage is sixth-best (68.8%).

Without the rim presence of Robinson for the Knicks, the Cavaliers should have no problem getting to their spots and exploiting New York’s new weakness.

New York Knicks

The Knicks are heavily reliant on Robinson’s rim protection as the fulcrum of their defense. In the first game since he went down with a broken right thumb, the Knicks lost a high-scoring game to the Raptors in Toronto.

In Robinson’s absence, the Knicks have started Jericho Sims, who is athletic and should be a helpful part of the Knicks’ rotation in the future, but he’s still young and doesn’t have the defensive instincts of Robinson.

Behind Sims is Isaiah Hartenstein who — despite a nice little contract of 2 years, $16 million — has seen his role reduced to just 14.1 minutes per game off the bench since Christmas.

Last time the Knicks played the Cavaliers in Madison Square Garden, the Knicks won a hard-fought defensive battle in which Robinson played 34 minutes to Hartenstein’s 14, while Sims saw a DNP-Coach’s Decision.

To explain the impact of Robinson that may not show up in the stat sheet beyond his 1.8 blocks per game, I look to stats like Efficiency Differential on Cleaning the Glass. Robinson has the highest Differential of any Knick at +11.2, which ranks in the 95th percentile. Second on the team is Quickley at +10.7, but Quickley is questionable with left knee soreness that kept him out of New York’s previous game against Toronto.

Cavaliers-Knicks Pick

Even if Quickley plays for the Knicks, I’m looking to the Cavaliers in this spot. They’ve struggled on the road (9-13-1), but are coming off two games at home and I think Mitchell will provide an offensive spark that can exploit the Knicks’ interior defense.

In Mitchell’s absence, I will be looking to play more Knicks overs in addition to fading the Knicks.

I’ll play the Cavaliers at the current number and playable down to -5, as well as the over at 222 or better.

Pick: Cavaliers -5 or Better | Over 222 or Better

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